▲ Robert O'brien the new National Security Advisor, Provided by the U.S. Department of the State
“His services are no longer needed at the White House,” tweeted President Donald Trump on September 10, following the firing of his previous National Security Advisor, John Bolton. After a number of disagreements on certain foreign policies, Trump finally drew an end to his relationship with Bolton and named a new National Security Advisor—Robert O’ Brien—to replace Bolton’s place. This is Trump’s fourth advisor nomination in his presidential term and people have been questioning what role a National Security Advisor is supposed to take. Will O’Brien be able to carry out that role and satisfy Trump?
Despite not being a high-profile figure, O’Brien managed to gain Trump’s trust, landing himself in the National Security Advisor position. O’Brien started off as an attorney but has long been in present when it comes to matters of foreign policy for the United States (U.S.). Before being appointed as the new National Security Advisor, he worked as a hostage negotiator at the State Department. O’ Brien was also known to be a Trump loyalist and there has been words going around saying that flattery played a part in obtaining the position.
What Is Trump Looking For?
Trump’s first National Security Advisor, General Michael Flynn, served the President for less than a month only to be forced to resign due to revelations that he had been communicating with a Russian ambassador. Shortly after this negative start, Trump appointed Lieutenant General Herbert McMaster to fill the spot. While McMaster lasted a solid year as the National Security Advisor, his clashing with a number of members of the Trump administration and occasional disagreement with Trump on key foreign policies prompted Trump to dismiss McMaster. Not long after, the empty position was filled by the most- recently-fired Bolton. Bolton also lasted just over a year working with Trump, only to get into a rather similar fallout with the President on foreign policy issues.
Initially, National Security Advisors were put in the position to promote fluid process management and, most importantly, provide the President with the best policy advice. However, in the case with Trump, it seems that anyone who presents a second opinion as the National Security Advisor ends up receiving the boot. The most effective way to get one’s opinion across to Trump is to be a little more subtle about opinions on foreign policy and maintain passivity when it comes to presenting differing perspectives because, as Trump says, “I make all the decisions.”
O’Brien would be what most call a conventional choice for Trump after having to deal with pushy arguments from Bolton. He stands starkly in contrast with McMaster and Bolton in that he comes off as more bureaucratic than the two when it comes to voicing opinions. Joel Rubin, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State who served under former President Barack Obama, said that O’ Brien is “Not a figure who is going to in any way threaten the primacy of the President on foreign policy.”
▲ President Trump and Robert O'brien, Provided by the New York Times
Meanwhile, O’Brien’s background as a lawyer and hostage negotiator also works as an advantage for the Trump Administration. People who are familiar with O’Brien’s commitments as a hostage negotiator has complimented on numerous occasions that O’Brien was not lacking when it came to his skill and zeal with which he used to bring hostages home to their loved ones. In light of the performance, O’ Brien’s willingness and suave ability to talk to U.S. adversaries will be one key feature that he could bring to the table.
Skepticism on O’Brien
Despite his modest yet deeming qualities, there is a lot of skepticism that surround the appointment of O’ Brien as the new National Security Advisor. A number of global disputes have suddenly been put under O’ Brien’s responsibility and as a person in the position as the top national security, the stances he takes will determine his future. Some of the top issues that need to be handled with special care is the situation with Iran, North Korea, and Afghanistan. Whether O’ Brien will have any say in how Trump decides to deal with each issue, only future can tell.
There are also a number of people who believe that O’ Brien only landed the position due to his flattery and sucking up to Trump. There are suspicions that O’ Brien would be absorbed in pleasing Trump as opposed to pushing an agenda or his position. The new National Security Advisor’s major foreign policy experience has been said to be minimal as he had never served in the White House or at the National Security Council. Considering this fact, the public doubts on whether Trump put O’ Brien in this position just to fill the vacant spot.
In addition, there are also questions as to whether O’ Brien would be able to get along with the other senior policy officials – especially the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Pompeo and Bolton have been well-known for their fallings-out and their disagreements in policies. It has been made clear that Pompeo would not tolerate any dissension from the National Security Advisor so, Trump would not be the only person O’ Brien would have to consider when it comes to voicing opinions.
O’Brien’s ascension to the position followed Trump’s decision to push forward on ambitious projects like the denuclearization of North Korea and pulling back from other global commitments that are on the brink of becoming a full-blown crisis. Despite O’ Brien having potential as the National Security Advisor, it is unknown whether Trump will take his opinions seriously. There are repeated concerns over whether O’ Brien would be able to engage in foreign policy decision on a senior level. After setting a record number of National Security Advisors being appointed during one’s presidential term, there seems to be nothing in particular that would stop Trump from firing O’ Brien. However, it still remains a fact that O’ Brien contrasts the previous advisors that Trump has had so, there is still some possibility that he could act as a turning point for National Security Advisors’ influence on the U.S.